Some literary works do not represent the detective story genre but still contain many mysteries and riddles that are not always easy to solve. Sometimes they remain unsolved even at the end of the narrative, leaving readers with their character interpretations, theories, and suggestions regarding the plot. The short story The Cask of Amontillado, written by well-known Edgar Allan Poe, perfectly exemplifies such a story, remaining one of the most mysterious literary works of the 19th century. In this writing, the narrator named Montresor reveals the truth about murdering his opponent, Fortunato, by immuring him into the granite wall. Thus, the current essay will investigate Montresor’s crime and provide proof that his revenge was fundamentally obligatory, with rational preparations and an exceptional grade of consistency.
Revenge in The Cask of Amontillado
First of all, the narrator masterfully lures the readers into the trap of empathizing with him. The story begins mysteriously: the storyteller explains that he wants revenge on Fortunato for bringing Montresor multiple injuries and insulting him. There is no word about those, not a single example of a specific “injury.” More importantly, the essence of the insult is not explained. However, Montresor appeals to readers like they are some old acquaintances, implying that they “so well know the nature” of his soul. The narrator’s perspective suggests that he and readers, or whomever he talks to, know each other closely. That may be why Montresor does not tell the story of his conflict with Fortunato in detail: he may presume readers already know it. In many senses, such a beginning creates an impression that The Cask of Amontillado is not a separate literary work but the continuation of some previous story. This is also a means of creating an image of a faceless criminal who possesses certain human characteristics.
The murderer in The Cask of Amontillado is a unique character as he appears as a highly reasonable and prudent person who thoroughly thinks about every step of his plan. First of all, Montresor explains that impunity is crucial for his punishment, stating that a despicable deed “is unredressed when retribution takes over its redresser.” The insulted man also mentions that revenge must be apparent to the opponent, and Montresor has to reveal himself as the revenger and ensure Fortunato understands he is being punished. Finally, the story’s main character is confident that his behavior misleads Fortunato into believing that Montresor’s will towards him is positive and that he has no bad intentions. Everything mentioned above demonstrates that the main character has made all necessary preparations before such a significant undertaking as murdering his archenemy. Although he is full of hatred for Fortunato, Montresor seems patient and thinks over several steps ahead to ensure the success of his plan.
Furthermore, the ability to exploit his enemy’s weaknesses against him proves that Montresor’s revenge is not based solely on an impulse that pushes him toward killing his friend. He states that Fortunato’s weakest point is priding himself on his “connoisseurship in wine.” Having found Fortunato in a drunken state, Montresor welcomes him warmly and informs him that he has bought a vast amount of Amontillado, but he doubts its genuineness. The future murderer expresses fake regrets regarding buying so much wine without consulting Fortunato, and he is on his way to Luchresi, who appears to be another wine connoisseur. Once the victim hears it, his pride takes control over him, and he seems to detest even the thought of Montresor seeking advice on wine from another person. Fortunato insists that they depart to the vaults immediately to examine the wine and satisfy Montresors’ doubts, saying that Luchresi “cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.” The story’s main character takes revenge on his enemy by luring him into a trap of pride and temptation.
Montresor further uses the name of Luchresi every time his enemy shows signs of sickness, such as a cough, to invoke Fortunato’s pride again and make them proceed to the vaults. Once they finish their journey and face a stone wall, Montresor uses chains to immobilize his opponent and starts immuring him into granite. However, when he is almost finished with this task, Fortunato suddenly stops answering him from his newly-formed prison. That silence bothers Montresor as he grows impatient and repeatedly calls his enemy’s name. Two reasons can explain such behavior: the first is more prominent and relates to Montresor’s desire to enjoy his enemy’s desperation, listening to his screams or nervous laugh. Another possible reason is fear, which even Montresor himself cannot understand and accept, only feel. There is a chance that Montresor only truly realizes what he has done when Fortunato stops answering his calls. For Montresor, excitement was not the key, as his plan seemed to work during all of the stages because of the killer’s ability to remain collected and not give in to enticements.
Nonetheless, whatever motive has driven Montresor, the events described in the story appear to mean much to him as he remembers them in detail many years later. In the last parts of his narrative, the murderer states that “for the half of a century no mortal has disturbed” the catacombs where Fortunato was once immured. It means that Montresor tells this story fifty years after it happened, yet he provides an accurate description of every moment and every action back then. The murderer remembers how Fortunato accosted him when they met, how drunk he was and what he wore. Furthermore, Montresor can cite each word of their dialogues as if they occurred yesterday, and he can remember every emotion Fortunato expressed that day. The main character describes their way into the vaults step by step, providing a clear picture of what happened fifty years ago. Such detailed and precise memories prove that the events of that day are highly significant to Montresor, and he can never forget them. This is another reason why Montresor’s actions can be deemed rational and consistent.
Overall, The Cask of Amontillado is an obscure story about the main character’s motive for murder: Montresor is prudent and remembers everything in detail, but he never explains why he had murdered Fortunato. Montresor demonstrates comprehensive knowledge of his enemy and great cunning, using Fortunato’s weaknesses to lure him into a well-prepared trap. However, it remains unclear whether Montresor has been satisfied with his revenge or cannot accept what he has done, remembering the related events half a century later. Still, The Cask of Amontillado is an insightful story from the murderer’s perspective. It shows how one’s urge for revenge could turn one into a prudent, consistent person who knows how to plan and keep the memory alive.